When you are responsible for casting a vote that will eliminate someone’s job the decision is one that rattles you inside. With that said, you need to step back and take in the entire picture before you make that decision. Trying to keep taxes under control is one of the most complicated and complex issues I have ever encountered and there are so many variables that need to be encompassed in one vote. There are parts you like, then there are parts you (reluctantly) live with knowing that the long term benefit will be the result. For those of you who were in the Council Chambers to witness the vote to pass the amended budget for 2011, you know how tense it was. The result is that homeowners will pay a 3.2% increase as opposed to the Mayor’s proposed budget which had an increase of nearly 7% not to mention the commercial property rates that are strangling the business owners in Kingston.
Non-negotiable items such as pension costs, health benefits, raises, mandated overtime, staffing levels and other contractual obligations limit the things you can cut. We need to lower our taxes (hey School Board, are you reading this?) and this can only be done by taking a hard look at how we can be more efficient in order survive. At the Board of Realtors we do a Strategic Plan every 5 years in order to insure we can adapt to changing market conditions and be prepared for what lies ahead. The real estate market is a good barometer of the economy and the City of Kingston would benefit from this mentality. Sadly, without doing one for so long it is a challenge to catch up, let alone move forward. Real change needs to happen and it will not happen overnight and there will be unpopular decisions that have to be made.
The Council will take a lot of criticism about the cuts that were made including the limiting of the Transfer Station hours with the layoff of two DPW employees and the retirement of another after 30+ years. Hopefully we can find a way to restore at least one of those positions in the coming months. I just want to say one thing, when I asked Mr. Schupp who uses of the Transfer Station the most he admitted to me that very few homeowners utilize the facility, it was mostly owners of multi-family homes and larger apartment houses doing clean up after a tenant moved out. I researched this as well as many of the other items I had submitted to the Finance Committee in order to cut the budget. Some of my proposals were voted down such as reducing the $100,000 overtime allocated for snowplowing when only a quarter of that is actually used annually. The Council could have saved $18,000 by giving back $2000 of their 2011 salaries. They cut the City Hall employees raises for a second year in a row and I felt this was a way to send the message that we are all in this together, however the measure was voted down. Other issues were discussed in front of the Committee and I encourage everyone attend a few of these meetings in order to hear the details before judging and condemning those who have to make difficult decisions.